Sydney to Samoa
Boeing 737 800
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
Velocity frequent flyer program
UP THE BACK OR POINTY END
My husband has purchased an exit row seat for $45; I have a standard ticket but Virgin staff sit me in his row and block out the seat between us. Due to weight restrictions on Virgin flights to Samoa, seats are routinely blocked out on this flight.
TIME IN THE AIR
Four hours 50 minutes. We depart 30 minutes late but manage to make up most of it in the air, touching down 10 minutes after our scheduled arrival.
Due to the weight restriction, pre-purchase of excess baggage isn't available on flights to Samoa, but can be purchased at the airport. Regular Saver and Flexi fares are allowed one 23-kilogram bag, with Premium Economy and Business allowed two 32-kilogram bags.
THE SEAT STUFF
Seats are in a 3-3 layout. Standard economy seats have a 79-centimetre seat pitch and are 43 centimetres wide. I make the most of the extra room the exit row and that blocked seat give us, lying across all three seats and managing to get a few hours' sleep despite white knuckle-inducing turbulence during our red-eye flight. When it's my husband's turn for a lie down, the adjustable headrest helps me get some upright shut-eye.
When it gets a little chilly on board we ask the flight attendant for a blanket. None are available, but he offers to turn the temperature up for us and 10 minutes later we're comfortable.
It's $15 to purchase an iPad in-flight entertainment system, but for those with their own iPads and iPhones entertainment is free through Virgin's Wi-Fi in-flight entertainment system, launched in September last year. We're informed of this before take-off, so I quickly download the app and am able to stream The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (one of 33 films on offer, along with a good selection of TV and music) on my iPhone.
It's chirpy with a capital C. We realise we've left a sunhat at the gate five minutes before take-off - the pilot himself collects it and brings it to our seats. After take-off, a flight attendant offers to take our bags down from the overhead lockers for us. When I'm short a pair of headphones, I tell the flight attendant, who happily gives me a pair, which I later see were $3 on the menu. It's these little touches that make all the difference.
We eat before we get on board and are glad we did. The available-for-purchase menu includes a selection of sandwiches and unhealthy snacks including Pringles, lollies, chocolate and cookies, none of which appeal.
ONE MORE THING
Members of Virgin's Velocity frequent flyer program who register and fly with the airline before June 30 will go in the draw to be upgraded to Space Class. The lucky winner will win a seat with Virgin Galactic.
Budget doesn't have to mean skimping on service. Virgin staff are setting a great example.
Virgin runs two flights a week between Sydney and Samoa, and one Saturday flight a week between Brisbane and Samoa.
Tested by Nina Karnikowski, who flew courtesy of Samoa Tourism Authority.